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Online content influences China’s traditional TV

February 13, 2014

BEIJING (AP) — A popular online show about a young Chinese couple’s trips to the far corners of the world is set to be broadcast on the country’s main television network, highlighting how popular online content is influencing China’s highly regulated mainstream media.

“On the Road,” by the Youku site’s entertainment unit, is to air during a prime-time evening slot next month on state broadcaster China Central Television’s flagship channel, CCTV-1.

The surging popularity of online content, particularly among 20-somethings who consume entertainment on their mobiles and tablets, is luring viewers away from state TV, which the Chinese government sees as a tool to mold public opinion. Privately owned video sites are seeing advertising revenue grow as well as the number of people who are paying to watch premium content, even if this number is still relatively small.

The first season of “On the Road,” which saw the childhood sweethearts venture to off-the-beaten-track places like Somalia and Chernobyl, received more than 100 million hits on Youku, where it was uploaded starting in June. The second season has the couple travel to other destinations including Madagascar, Colombia and Alaska and is expected to culminate in their wedding at the South Pole.

Youku said it would repackage the original 15-minute videos from the first season into five half-hour episodes that would debut on CCTV in March.

CCTV was not immediately available to confirm the planned broadcast.

Privately owned video sites in China started life with YouTube-style clips uploaded by users. They soon expanded into showing domestic and international TV series and movies. Now, they increasingly produce their own low-budget shows targeted at 15- to 40-year-olds who watch content on mobile phones and laptops. They are even co-producing movies.

“We’re increasingly working with television stations and movie companies to bring these Web-based contents to the home screen as well as to the big screen,” said Victor Koo, CEO of Youku Tudou Inc.

Hunan TV, a popular provincial satellite station that is watched nationally, became a co-producer of the second season of a Youku comedy Web series called “Surprise,” after the first garnered average views of 31 million per episode.

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